- How do I help X fit in to her new class?
- How can I as Head of Department improve the participation of some of the staff who seem reluctant to take part during meetings?
- How can I as a Head of Year stimulate more interest in a Standard Tutorial Programme across the tutor groups?
- As a Headteacher how can I improve parent participation at X event?
So as you see, there is an infinite variety. Action Research has methods to follow, but you set the criteria. You call the shots!
Q. Who decides what I should be researching on?
A. You do. In the final analysis you have to decide because you are yourself one of the focuses of research. Look at the questions above. There is an ‘I’ in every one. That’s vitally important. Who you are, affects what you do and how you act in the classroom. That is part of the area of study.
Q. But what if it says in the S.D.P. (School Development Plan - every school has one in Avon, for example) that it’s all about teaching and learning styles this year, isn’t that stipulating over my head what I might want to look into?
A. Tell me about some issue in the classroom that cannot be fitted under the heading of teaching and learning! And there is nothing to stop the individual teacher taking on an Action Research enquiry in the classroom that is an integral part of her/his classroom strategies at that time. Of course it gathers momentum when it is part of a wider sphere of activity within the school. It can be hard to be/feel isolated.
EPILOGUE Action Research is clearly not an easy undertaking. It requires commitment, a critical openness, a sense of the importance of the individual learner, a desire to improve what one is doing, and a belief that the teaching and learning can be improved. An Action Researcher needs to be flexible and prepared to learn from experience and/or failure. It would seem to me, however, that the exacting nature of an action enquiry is a sound preparation for a career in which the above virtues are a prerequisite to the job of teaching itself.
I believe that there is a profound correlation between good teaching and critical self-knowledge. By good teaching I mean the activity that facilitates learners into a greater understanding and ultimately a practical wisdom, about themselves and the world in which they find themselves and of ways in which they can act in that world to improve it. And I think that it is important for teachers to be able to perceive their own strengths and weaknesses and to be prepared to face and act upon the responsibilities that this knowledge incurs.
It is clear to me this year that much progress has been made here at Bath in the students’ Final Reports in terms of their depth, range and impact. They will be a source of great stimulus for the students in 1992-1993 and beyond in the work Jack Whitehead and I are trying to promote with teachers and student teachers as researchers into their own practice. I hope that you will find this Guide and Justine’s Report which follows, of benefit to you as you follow through your own enquiries, and come to share them with others. In all your endeavours I wish you success, insights, improvements and a sense of humour!
I think it is vital that we stimulate this diverse and profound source of insights for the improvement of the learning both of the students and their pupils in whatever educational settings they find themselves. By sharing the work we do in teaching we can enrich and deepen our own abilities in the workplace and the quality of learning possible. In addition we can begin to refute, with evidence, the dominant received wisdom that teachers are mere recipients of the ideas of others and not makers of their own meanings which must be implicit in an activity which demands social justice, parity of opportunity and respect for individuals. I believe that Action Research offers the teaching profession a way forward for the future of humanity.